The Toads won the toss and put us into bat on a glorious afternoon. Two fours in the opening over by Mark Ford-Langstaff were followed by two wickets (Jon Pilgrim and Mark) in the next two overs, which brought Tim House and then Jon Springer to the crease at 12 for 2. Two and a quarter hours later, Jon Springer reached his maiden century for Middleton Stoney in the last over before tea when we declared on 196 for 6. Jon was ably supported by Tim House (26), Alex Silverman (16), Paul Wordsworth (21) and Jacob Ford-Langstaff (5 not out). Jacob, in particular, was calmness personified as he gave Jon the strike to enable him to reach 101 not out just before tea. Tim House got forward, Alex Silverman got on with it, Dan Simpson got a duck and Paul Wordsworth played as stylishly as Tom Graveney, except in getting out. Jon’s innings was the champagne moment (well, champagne two and a quarter hours) of the season so far. Lots of Springers were at the match.
It is a feature of Middleton Stoney story-telling that our batsmen believe they get out to bad balls while our bowlers believe they take wickets with good balls. Mark Ford-Langstaff and Alex Silverman were clean bowled by the Toads’ opening bowler (Johnny Ormesher, of whom more anon) to balls which ‘kept low’ and the other four dismissals were attributed by us to mis-timed thwacks of full tosses and the like. In which case, an impartial observer might have asked, how come Jon Springer was still playing some very impressive bowling very carefully indeed two hours in to his innings? Stuart Frith, for instance, the seventh bowler for the Toads, didn’t even remove his huge hat before starting his spell with a maiden over. There was a suspicion that the hat might have been concealing a device controlling a drone inserted into the ball provided by the Toads. The flamboyant Frith fashion sense was shared by Stuart’s spectator son, Patrick, pressed into service as 12th Man in the field and then padded up as 11th in the Toads’ batting order, wearing pink shorts in all these roles. Ormesher and Talbot were the pick of the bowlers, taking two wickets each, Thomas and McGarry one each.
Patricia Lee provided a tea that was much enjoyed by all, including the families of the Toads, to such an extent that their innings started a crucial couple of overs later than it might have done. Two hours later, as time ran out, the game was nicely poised with Toads on 166 for 8, Mr Ormesher batting at number eight on 87 not out, and the afore-mentioned Patrick Frith ready to determine the result had another wicket fallen. At one point, Ormesher backed away as a bowler began to run in before he was ready, which would have been fair enough if all 72 deliveries of Ormesher’s 12 over stint had not begun with the same tactic.
Talking of telegraphed surprises, I will never again tease Olly Selway about his trademark slower ball since this was the day when it worked! Out went one of their openers, captain Max Lemanski, who failed to spot in Olly’s nine overs the one slower ball (out of 54 slower balls) which was right on target. The other opener, McGarry, scored worryingly freely until Jacob Ford-Langstaff decided to mix it up, deceived him, and bowled him for 35. Smith was caught behind by Tim House off the bowling of Tim Cranston. There was the slightest hint that he found the decision more mystifying than the ball. That apart, our catching was so abysmal that we had to rely on hitting the stumps. Jon Pilgrim, Olly Selway and Tim Cranston each bowled another batsman and there were two spectacular run outs, proving that there really isn’t a run to two or three of our fielders (take a bow, Tim Cranston, Olly Selway and Jacob Ford-Langstaff). Our failure to hold catches, however, was another reason, along with tea, or possibly caused by too much tea, for our failure to win the game (hanging my head in shame as I write – sorry, team).
The pick of our eight bowlers was Mark Ford-Langstaff whose one over was a maiden. If Smith was mystified as to why he was given out when he edged it to the keeper, Mark seemed perplexed as to why I took him off after this promising start. With the benefit of hindsight, so am I (apologies again) but at the time I was asking everyone to bowl. Alex Silverman, Jon Springer and Tim House declined the invitation but Dan Simpson and I managed an over each, Paul Wordsworth and Jacob Ford-Langstaff four each, Jon Pilgrim six, Olly Selway nine and Tim Cranston ten. Richard Simpson and Peter Van de Kerkhof umpired. Tim Cranston took charge of the score-book and shared with Dan Simpson the barbecue duties.
As the evening progressed, one narrative emerged in which if I had held on to a simple catch or two, or given Mark more of a spell, we would have won easily. Alternatively, it became clear that Ormesher, the one who kept bowling before we were ready, was kept back in the batting order as part of a cunning plan. My attempt to share out the bowling thus coincided with the arrival at number eight of the very chap who used to lead the Yorkshire Academy averages ahead of Jonny Bairstow and Joe Root. This is my preferred interpretation of how we came to draw a game we (or they) should have won.
In other words, the Toads have some very serious cricketers, some serious family supporters and some serious tea-devourers, so they are our kind of opposition, especially as they manage to take the game seriously enough to make it highly competitive but without losing their sense of humour. Talking of which, we already have a Toads’ cap on our pavilion wall and have now been offered the Frith family’s pink shorts and huge Ascot-style hat for our museum of Middleton Park memorabilia. The abiding cricketing memory for me, however, is how on the hottest day of the year Jon Springer scored his maiden century - a hundred which took some getting against such high quality opposition.